Strategic partnerships key to SME innovation

When harnessed well, disruptive technologies can accelerate growth and drive opportunities for Singapore’s Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). This was one of the key messages from Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran during the recent event on 20 April 2017.

Minister Iswaran also emphasized the need for SMEs to leverage technology to upgrade capabilities, create new value propositions and enhance productivity. He encouraged SMEs to tap the local innovation ecosystem, including the support from government agencies such as A*STAR and SPRING Singapore, which can facilitate innovation and technology adoption efforts. 

His remarks echoed those made by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat at the 2017 Budget debate. Minister Heng also highlighted effective partnerships between government bodies and industry practitioners, as one of the seven strategies to take the Singapore economy forward.

At SME Day 2017, plenary speakers also shared their innovation experiences and related how local companies could benefit from similar partnerships with government agencies and other innovation facilitators.

For instance, Eric Lew from Wong Fong Engineering took a brave first step in establishing the Wong Fong Research and Innovation Centre in 2014. By doing so, he transformed a 53-year-old family business to become a world player in the land transport engineering industry. The company’s portfolio now includes solutions in load handling, waste management and electric mobility industries.

Lew, who was also nominated for Singaporean of the Year 2016, is a firm believer in innovation. He encourages SME owners to set aside some budget and make use of resources offered by government agencies to embark on innovation.

Another company, Neeuro, used neurotechnology and gamification to accurately measure one’s brain’s activity, as well as train and track cognitive functions. Neeuro’s co-founder, Kelly Choo, is passionate about creating positive impact on people’s lives by using technology to solve problems. Kelly urged SMEs to be proactive in searching for ready-made technologies that can potentially be commercialised.

For instance, the company started by licensing A*STAR’s technology from its commercialisation arm, ETPL. It subsequently participated in the T-Up programme where A*STAR researchers were seconded to help with product development. Neeuro then went on to clinch Champion for Regional Best Practice in the World Summit Awards (SEA) 2016 under the United Nations framework.

About 1,200 people attended SME Day, of which more than 75% were first-timers. Apart from showcasing technology solutions from A*STAR and the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs), the event also featured A*STAR initiatives such as the Model Factories and Tech Access.

A new technology solutions portal for SMEs, called Tech Depot, was launched on the same day. Housed under the SME Portal, it consolidates easily adoptable technology solutions which are developed or pre-qualified by A*STAR, IMDA and SPRING Singapore.